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20 January 2016

PMQs review: David Cameron’s bombardment of Jeremy Corbyn leaves Labour grim

Opposition MPs winced at the PM's attacks on their leader over Trident and the Falklands. 

By George Eaton

David Cameron arrived at today’s PMQs with so much ammunition that he struggled to use it all. Referencing Jeremy Corbyn’s weekend interview with Andrew Marr, he derided the Labour leader for wanting to “bring back secondary picketing” and for “the absurd idea of sending submarines to sea without nuclear weapons”. He didn’t mention Corbyn’s suggestion that the UK should reach a “reasonable accommodation” with Argentina over the Falklands but DUP Westminster leader Nigel Dodds soon gave him the chance. “I find it quite extraordinary that the Labour Party now want to look at trying to change the status … that will never happen while I’m in Downing Street,” he said. 

The problem for Corbyn is not just that his views on Trident and the Falklands are at odds with those of the public but that they are at odds with his party’s. Rarely in recent months have the Labour benches looked as morose as they did today. Cameron showed the Tories’ gameplan when he declared that the opposition as well as its leader was a threat to “our national security, our economic security and the aspiration of every family”. The Conservatives’ hope is that even if Corbyn is removed, the damage from their attacks will endure. 

The Labour leader started the session well, sardonically asking Cameron where the mention of abolishing student grants was in the Conservative manifesto. The PM dodged the question by replying “we would cut the deficit and would uncap student numbers and we’ve done both”. As Corbyn continued to press him on the subject, Cameron played a trump card by quoting Ed Balls (“someone I rather miss”) who recently told Times Higher Education: “We clearly didn’t find a sustainable way forward for the financing of higher education, if the electorate think you’ve got the answers for the future, they’ll support you.” 

Corbyn deployed his own version of this trick when he cited Tory MP Maria Caulfield’s warning that she would have struggled to become a nurse without a bursary. But Cameron, who saved his fiercest attacks till the end, was well-equipped to shrug off that challenge. 

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